Kathleen Wynne closer to calling byelections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls
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Premier Kathleen Wynne is gearing up to call byelections in Thornhill and Niagara Falls that could determine whether there is a general election this spring.
In the clearest sign yet that the writs will soon drop, the governing Liberals will officially nominate city councillor Joyce Morocco as their candidate in Niagara Falls on Thursday.
“I need Joyce on my team at Queen’s Park,” Wynne said last month when Morocco’s candidacy was first broached.
The Liberals, who last month launched new five-year, $75-million wine strategy to boost Niagara wineries, are vying to keep the seat held for a decade by former MPP Kim Craitor, who retired last fall.
But regional councillor Bart Maves, a one-time Tory MPP, is hoping to win back the riding he held from 1995 until 2003.
The NDP has yet to nominate a candidate but city councillor Wayne Gates is the front-runner and New Democrats believe he can win a byelection that could be slated for Feb. 13.
Gates did a media blitz across the riding Tuesday with press conferences in Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Wynne will also call a vote in Thornhill to fill the seat recently vacated by former Tory MPP Peter Shurman.
The Liberals have already nominated Vaughan councillor Sandra Yeung Racco, whose husband, Mario Racco, was the Grit MPP until being defeated by Shurman in 2007.
Gila Martow, a former local Conservative riding association president, is seeking the PC nomination, as is autism activist Bruce McIntosh.
However, Tory insiders say the party has also been quietly wooing Toronto Argonauts executive chairman and CEO Chris Rudge as a possible standard-bearer.
The NDP, which will focus its efforts on Niagara Falls, hasn’t named a Thornhill candidate. The Greens still have to select nominees in both ridings.
Results in the byelection could have an impact on the survival of the minority Liberal government.
Should the Conservatives sweep both, rattled New Democrats may rethink siding with the Tories to defeat Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s spring budget and triggering an election.
But if the New Democrats win Niagara Falls — a riding that includes PC Leader Tim Hudak’s hometown of Fort Erie — NDP Leader Andrea Horwath might want to roll the dice on a general election.
Liberal wins in both ridings, meanwhile, could give both Hudak and Horwath pause.
Tory MPP Doug Holyday, who won the Etobicoke—Lakeshore byelection last summer, said the looming contests are “very important to us.”
“We have a good chance of taking those byelections,” Holyday said Wednesday at Queen’s Park.
Indeed, a pair of defeats for the Liberals would be a setback for Wynne as she prepares for a province-wide campaign.
Other than the two vacancies, the Grits have 49 MPPs — including Speaker Dave Levac — in the 107-member legislature, the Tories have 36, and the NDP has 20.